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Game Review: “Riverbond” Is a Mellow Shoot-and-Slash That’s Better With Friends

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Riverbond

B

Riverbond is a colorful couch co-op dungeon crawler with shoot-and-slash combat.

The Good
  • Couch co-op for up to four players
  • Bright voxel artwork
  • Diverse weapons and skins
  • Destructible environment
The Bad
  • Repetitive gameplay
  • Not challenging enough
  • Lack of an engaging storyline

You don’t have many relaxing options when it comes to local co-op games. Most couch co-op games have a high stress level that makes it easy to become frustrated. Riverbond serves as a solution to this problem, offering quick and easy gameplay for groups (or for single players).

Take a break from reality, and start shooting and slashing your way through Riverbond.

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The Good

The first thing you’ll notice when watching the Riverbond trailer is the game’s vibrant Minecraft-like artwork. You can choose from a range of character skins, including some you might recognize.

Play as a pug, rabbit, eggplant, and more, or opt to play as one of your favorite indie game characters. Riverbond features its own blocky rendition of characters such as The Kid from Bastion, Juan from Guacamelee, and even Lover Mu from Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime. Don’t expect to have immediate access to all of these skins—you’ll unlock them as you complete the game.

You can choose from eight different environments to explore. Each campaign offers a completely different setting. While some areas take place in a rural landscape, others bring you aboard a pirate ship or take you to a dreary swamp. If you’re the destructive type, you’ll really enjoy the fact that you can smash almost everything in the environment.

As you progress through each level, you have to complete various missions that are assigned to you by adorable non-playable characters (NPCs). After you finish a task, a new part of the environment will open up, and you can progress. The missions range from eliminating all enemies to destroying crab nests or collecting eggs.

You have the potential to unlock fifty different weapons that you’ll find scattered in treasure chests in each map. This game is actually considered a shoot-and-slash, rather than a hack-and-slash.

In other words, you’re not limited to melee weapons, as you can pick up various types of ranged weapons. Speaking of weapons, they’re definitely unique—you’ll get to use a lollipop and even a giant hand to help you smack around your enemies. Unfortunately, your weapons reset every time you choose a different campaign.

Enemies come in the form of creatures like birds, crabs, and pigs. They approach you in groups, so expect to attack multiple enemies at once in true hack-and-shoot style. When you complete every mission in a level, you’ll have to conquer a giant boss.

Riverbond becomes even more appealing once you realize that you can play it with up to four friends. Additional players can jump into the game at any time, and its super casual gameplay attracts both gamers and non-gamers. Players of all ages and skill levels can pick up the simple controls in a matter of minutes.

The Bad

As you talk with the NPCs, you’ll start to piece together a vague storyline. The key word here is vague—the storyline isn’t engaging at all.

After I talked to the first few characters, I zipped through the rest of the dialogue. You really don’t need to know the story in order to complete the game, so that doesn’t give me a need to talk to NPCs for reasons other than quest assignments. I wish the storyline could’ve been more detailed. Such an improvement would give the game a huge boost in entertainment value.

Another downside to Riverbond is its incredibly short length. I almost feel as if I didn’t get my money’s worth. I managed to complete the game in a matter of a few hours, which really comes as a bummer for me.

Sure, you can replay all eight campaigns, but there’s really no point. Why should I replay a game, only to unlock the same weapons over and over again? The only new things you can get out of the game are character skins, which brings me to my next point.

Riverbond has over 30 character skins that you can find hidden in treasure chests sprinkled throughout each map. Finding and using a new skin is definitely enjoyable, but the skins serve absolutely no purpose—they only exist for looks, and do nothing to switch up the gameplay. Since every skin plays the same way, why should I bother trying to collect them all?

Even if you do go back to replay every level, you’ll quickly get tired of it. There’s no way to amp up the difficulty. Hacking and shooting the same enemies at the same pace makes it way too easy.

If you excel at video games and love challenges, Riverbond probably isn’t the right game for you. As I said, this game is stuck on only one difficulty, making it a breeze to complete. You’ll almost never find yourself truly challenged. We can only hope that the developers add new game modes, as well as an option to change level difficulty in the future.

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The Rest

Overall, Riverbond is a great game to play if you want to forget the world around you. It requires little to no brainpower to play, making it an ideal game to chill out with.

The artwork and concept of the game are fantastic—with a few tweaks from the developers, it can turn into a longer, more in-depth game. Still, playing it alone or with a friend can result in a fun gaming session.

If you’re looking for more couch co-op games, check out our review of top-down local co-op game Streets of Rogue.

Buy Riverbond on Steam
Buy Riverbond on Microsoft Store
Buy Riverbond on PlayStation Store

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